One of the best things about a good marriage, I suspect, is a couple’s differences. My husband, Peter, and I are good at different things, and by definition close to helpless in others. Discovering this, of course, does not come without cost. It means learning to listen to another point of view that often feels like a direct contradiction of our own and taking it seriously.
Peter, for instance, is a born pessimist, I a born optimist. Once I learned to take his pessimism seriously, I saw the benefit of preparing for possible undesirable outcomes. I learned, as Peter put it, that the difference between an emergency and an inconvenience is often a back-up. So we have savings I would not have thought useful.
Or when Peter would come up with a brilliant idea, followed with the inevitable statement it would be impossible for us ever to implement, the optimist in me began to see the possibilities. So we figured out how to buy a house.
In the kitchen, we both cook, but very differently. I am practical. I can put a meal on the table in 30 minutes. Peter, on the other hand, has taste buds far more sensitive to mine. He denies this, but he is really a gourmet cook who has never used recipes as rules but merely as suggestions. And often makes it up after looking to see what’s on the shelves or growing in the garden. He inevitably announces the result is “a disaster,” but I cannot remember a single time in the last 44 years that it has been inedible.
Many of our skills are a reversal of those that are typically identified with males and females. I am good at mathematics and have some mechanical skills, albeit untrained. Peter, on the other hand, has a grasp of literature and social structures, and interestingly, some computer skills, that far outstrip mine.
So we have learned to ask each other for help.
Two days ago, Peter said the lawn mower would not start. It looked either as if the start button on the mower wasn’t working or that the battery wasn’t recharging and had reached the end of its life. We decided the best choice was to order a new battery, rather than a new mower. The battery came yesterday, and after recharging it, he put it into the mower. It still wouldn’t start. So he called me, really just to confirm that we were going to have to buy a new mower after all.
I don’t mow the lawn, and I wasn’t familiar with the machine. But I took out the battery, looked at it, and wondered if the problem was not with the battery after all but with the battery charger. Before trying to decide if we could figure out if this was the problem, I noticed that a few very small scraps of grass cuttings had slipped into the battery cage. “Oh,” I said, “I wonder if this is the problem.” “No,” Peter assured me. “We’ve had this mower for eight years and that’s never happened.” “Okay,” I said, blowing at the offending bits of green and displacing them into my face. “I’m sure you’re right and it won’t work, but let’s give it a try – there’s no-…”
I hadn’t finished stating my expectation of failure when Peter pushed on the starter lever. The mower started.
“Ah!” said Peter, “you are the breath of life!”
Well, I must confess it was more like a stroke of luck than the breath of life.
But it’s true: he couldn’t have done it without me.
Love and life are made up of a lot of little things, aren’t they? even little bits of grass.